Holidays are about bringing magic to your menu and making the most of the busier times in the year. The Gibson’s, Marian Beke, shares tips on how to stand out from other bars this festive season with his exclusive Johnnie Walker Festive Highball serves.
Inspiration and tips
MAKING THE HIGHBALL YOUR HOLIDAY HERO
‘Tis the Season …
The festive season is always a busy one for bars and restaurants, with offices and businesses rushing to host their Christmas parties and celebrations before the end of the year. In addition to getting your bar ready for the festive season, there is also the pressure of creating a celebratory atmosphere and memorable experiences that will draw in the masses. A key part of preparing for the holiday season is creating great seasonal serves…
Bring Festive Flair to your Bar
It’s time to get creative! During key moments throughout the year, it’s worth creating a special menu to satisfy your guests’ desire to celebrate and make it memorable. During Christmas and New Year, try bringing seasonal flavours, festive names and themes to your menu.
What comes to mind when you think of Christmas? Rich, warming spices, hot drinks and the most wonderful aromas of the winter season. Little touches like smoked pinecones, beeswax, cinder toffee garnishes, pine fir soda, sweet spice aromas and the main spirit base will create a unique moment.
The highball is a cocktail that can be easily adapted for any time of the year. Taking inspiration from the scents and tastes of the festive season, you can either keep things fresh and simple with two ingredients or try more complex serves using herbs, spices, fruit, botanical infusions, chilled green or fizzy teas.
The classic highball should be included in every festive menu. Simple, satisfying and quick to prepare, ahighball is an effortless and delicious drink. Don’t forget fizz is key - the more bubbles in your mixer, the fresher and cleaner your serve will taste. When whipping up your Highball, always use premium small bottle mixers that are freshly chilled prior to service.
Use your garnish as a finishing touch to elevate your cocktail, make a lasting impression on your guests or as an extra special element to lift the flavour, evolve the taste or influence the aroma. Additionally, why not accompany a cocktail with a festive treat like mini mince pies – a nice touch that will keep customers coming back.
The perfect festive serve, the Johnnie Walker Chai-Ball is inspired by east-meets-west fusion and marries these two worlds perfectly. Local English flavours like strawberries and cream or traditional rhubarb are combined with far-flung ingredients from India like warming spices and Assam tea. This holiday serve works earthiness and full-bodied flavours from the tea with a gentle hint of sweetness from the cream soda.
40 ml Johnnie Walker Black Label
15 ml of strong Black Assam tea
2 bar spoons of palm sugar
500 ml water
Chai spices: Pepper, ginger, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, allspice
Fresh lemon or lemon sorbet
London Essence Strawberry or Rhubarb cream soda
Alcohol content: 12.64g per serve
● Bring the water to the boil and add the spices of your choice.
● Boil for another 15-20 seconds. Remove from the heat.
● Add 6-7 teaspoons of Assam tea. Leave to macerate for 7-8 minutes.
● Strain and add 2-3 teaspoons of palm sugar and remaining ingredients.
● Stir well and fill the glass up with ice before topping up with the soda.
● Optional: Squeeze in a large wedge of lemon or some nice lemon sorbet.
The festive season wouldn’t be the same without
crackling fires and smell of wood smoke in the air and this next highball is for those who love sweet spice, the tingle of smoke and big aromas on their palate. This recipe uses Lapsang Tea, a black tea dried through smoke and extraction, and bitter cocoa to create a sumptuous pairing that works so well in this drink. In this recipe, we’re using ginger ale instead of traditional soda allowing an extra hint of sweet spice to come through for that perfect festive note.
40 ml Johnnie Walker Black Label
Lapsang Souchong Tea
20-25 ml of chilled cocoa (sweet spices optional)
Pinch of sea salt
Alcohol content: 12.64g per serve
● Bring some water to the boil and add the cocoa powder. I recommend using high quality cocoa powder between 75-85% pure cacao.
● Add some brown sugar - 1 teaspoon of sugar for every 2 teaspoons of cocoa and whisk well to dissolve.
● Add the Lapsang Tea (2 teaspoons per 250 ml of cocoa mix) and let soak for 3-4 minutes before straining.
● Add the festive spices of your choice. I recommend green cardamom, ginger, pepper, cinnamon, cloves or star anise and let the cocoa mix chill.
● Take a highball glass and fill with large ice cubes, add all ingredients except cocoa and mix.
● Pour the chilled cocoa mix on top while ensuring the layers don’t mix. Use a spoon to help slowly pour the cocoa to sustain the layers.
● Serve without a straw to ensure the flavour and warmth of the spiced cocoa hits the palate first.
● Accompany your Smoking Barrel with mini mince pies or chunks of bitter cocoa.
To Bee or Not to Bee
This recipe is the perfect festive choice for any bar and enhances the match made in heaven that is honey and chilli. I’ve chosen chilli jelly instead of fresh chilli to add texture and to allow control of spice levels and heat within the cocktail. With fresh chilli, you would have to taste test each chilli to ascertain the level of heat, whilst the jelly contains sweeteners that work perfectly for the festive season.
Honey has been used in creating alcohol for centuries. Honey mead is the oldest wine in the world and is made from fermented honey in a way that preserves the flavours but results in a drier taste. Combining these sweet and warming ingredients with the fizz of some Champagne means you’ll soon have the ideal drink for your festive menu.
35 ml Johnnie Walker Black Label
15 ml honey mead wine
1 teaspoon chilli jelly
3 dashes of white orange balsamic vinegar
Half a teaspoon of toasted pine nuts
Sprig of Douglas pine fir, small pinecones or honeycomb
● Toast the pine nuts on a hot, dry non-stick pan on a medium heat. Pine nuts contain lots of natural oil that we want to extract so don’t introduce any further oil.
● Stir while toasting them until they are golden in colour with a nutty aroma. Remove from the pan.
● Take a highball glass and add the whisky and chilli jelly and stir to combine.
● Add the rest of the ingredients, leaving the Champagne for last. Gently pour the Champagne almost to the very top and softly stir using up - down motions.
● Garnish with a little pine or small pinecones for true seasonal nostalgia. If you have a small cigar torch, you can burn the ends of fir or top of the pinecones to release beautiful aromas.
● Accompany the cocktail with some pieces of fresh honeycomb that the customer can chew while drinking to balance the dryness and gentle spice of the chilli jelly or cinder toffee and balsamic caviar.
This seasonal recipe uses a common method from Japan to cold brew whisky with fragrant white tea. The technique is used to extract teas in cold water rather than hot for a longer time and results in stronger tea flavours without the bitter tannin parts of tea. Once you have the whisky infusion ready, you can keep the bottle closed and the flavours stay within the alcohol.
35 ml Johnnie Walker Blue label cold brewed with virgin white tea
5 ml Yuzu juice
Float 10-15 ml of white port wine
Coconut and pineapple tropical tonic
Toasted coconut shavings and candied pineapple pieces
Alcohol content: 11.06g per serve
● Start with cold brewing the whisky - for one bottle introduce 3-4 teaspoons of a virgin white tea and place in the fridge overnight between 4-5 degrees. The next day, strain out the tea.
● Take a 250ml capacity jar that seals well and add 5-6 teaspoons of toasted coconut flakes and small handful of dried or candied pineapples.
● Gently pour tonic into the jar until you reach the top, seal it and leave in the fridge for 2-3 hours.
● Take a chilled highball glass and fill it with big cubes of ice.
● Add all the ingredients, leaving the tonic and port last.
● Gently fill the glass with tropical tonic with 1 cm of space at the top for the port.
● Float the port on top and let the bubbles mix the drink flavours for you.
● Serve without straw but feel free to garnish with some candied pineapple pieces and few large toasted coconut shavings on top.
5 KEY TAKEAWAYS
● Be creative when it comes to planning your festive menu - consider seasonal spices, aromas and garnishes that will surprise and delight!
● The highball is perfect for adding to any festive menu as it can be as simple or as complex as you like.
● Consider how you will present your cocktail and how an accompaniment can elevate it.
● Experiment with green, black or other fragrant teas as a soda alternative.
● When creating your highball, use small bottles of soda or mixers that have been pre-chilled for a fresher taste.
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